UN PGA High Level Event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda

HL-UN Event

Peace Boat US participated in the recent UN PGA High-level Event on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Agenda, where leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the challenges they face to mitigate climate change, making it clear that many nations are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the well-being of the Earth today and in the future. The event provided an opportunity to highlight synergies between Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda and to gather representatives of Governments, International Organizations, the Private Sector and other stakeholders who are advancing solutions to implementation of the SDG and Climate Change agreements.

20170323_165436 (1)Agreeing on the fact that the planet should not warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius within the next century, it is the responsibility of each and every nation, developed and developing, to implement new practices in response to this ongoing environmental crisis. New, old and improved climate change action plans were brought to the audience’s attention through shared information on what has been tried before, what methods are actually working, visions of innovative approaches and predictions of a substantial amount of positive change. As was pointed out at the conference, global temperatures are rising each day, and we must remember that this affects us all. Temperature change is not limited to a particular part of the world, but contributes to all weather patterns globally.


Many representatives from developing countries put emphasis on their need for committed support from developed ones. Every nation is to provide concrete ownership and share the responsibilities of implementation of the SDGs. Peace Boat supports the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the message stated by Ambassador Sareer from the Permanent Mission of the Maldives to work towards solutions to climate change across all sectors and take significant steps to reach the goals of the Samoa Pathway outcome document. Greater improvement requires all forces to join together to help those vulnerable populations in creating new lifestyles that are “harmonious with Mother Earth”. Climate change not only affects the environment, but trickles down to other SDGs such as poverty, health care, and social and economic growth. Representatives from the Philippines and Nicaragua stressed this point in order to present the need for assistance when determining how to adapt its population to the change. Representatives from the Permanent Mission of Sri Llanka agreed that, “Adaption is the most suitable way to approach climate change”, while representatives from Morocco reassured everyone that their methods of reducing greenhouse gases and energy dependencies continue to work. They are willing to transfer this knowledge to others and to continue to spread awareness to conserve the environment.

The 2030 Agenda,  which “recognises that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge” (according to the UN Division for Sustainable Development), and the Paris Agreement, which “brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so” (according to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), influenced the direction of presentations for many speakers during the assembly. Representatives from Panama shared that what is done by other countries should benefit everyone. Integrating new policies, innovating strategies and assuring everyone’s commitment should start things off on the right track for a better future for the planet and its people. With Earth Day coming up in April, the shared perspectives were useful and necessary to spark innovative ideas globally and locally to protect the environment within our own communities.

This post was created and published by Sommer B. Flood (Intern from Peace Boat US). 


Creating Cultures of Peace: Art, Music, and Peace Museums


IMG_8964How can the United Nations and NGOs unite people and cultures to make the world a better and more peaceful place? That was a central question posed at a UN Department of Public Information (DPI) briefing  titled, “Creating Cultures of Peace: Art, Music, and Peace Museums” that Peace Boat US attended on  February 23, 2017,

Dr. Joyce Aspel, author of Introducing Peace Museums and member of the International Network of Museums for Peace, explained that peace museums promote understanding of peace as a significant part of history and provide a space for people to come together.  She identified some of the peace museums around the world, including Pasos Peace Museum,  a virtual museum accessible to everyone in which different webpages act as “rooms” in the museum.  Lea Giddins, a representative of the museum, explained how peace museums can be used to connect, empower, and inspire peace builders.

Next, Michael Dinwiddie and Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of Duke Ellington, spoke on behalf of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts and how music can promote peace and intercultural understanding.  They discussed Duke Ellington’s role as a goodwill ambassador for the State Department and his worldwide tours which started in 1963.  He wrote over 3000 compositions inspired by his travels, including the famous “Far East Suite.”  Mercedes Ellington shared anecdotes from her time with him on his USSR tour and discussed how “arts come to the rescue.”  Finally, Lily Gray, Liaison officer at UNESCO, and Hajime Kishimori, Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, both talked about the role their institutions can play in supporting cultures of peace. Lily Gray discussed how culture and art can be drivers of sustainable development and mentioned some of UNESCO’s programs that emphasize them.  For example, UNESCO’s General and Regional Histories focus on scientific, cultural, and religious contributions (instead of battles, kings, and violence) that support global citizenship and conflict prevention.  Hajime Kishimori focused on the role governments can have in promoting art and cultures of peace.

Overall, it was a very interesting event that brought into question how we define peace and how we can foster it.   It fit well into Sustainable Development Goal #16 (Peace,Justice and Strong Institutions) as well as Peace Boat’s commitment to connecting people from different cultures to make a more peaceful world.

This post was created and published by Lindsey Sokol (Peace Boat US Intern).

Utilizing Information And Communication Technology For Sustainable Development

csm_unsustainabledevelopmentgoals_cover_01_43148a588aToday Peace Boat US interns attended “The Role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in accelerating the achievement of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development” at the United Nations Headquarters. They learned that while 98% of Americans have access to the internet, only 47% of the global population has similar access. This meeting focused on the opportunities and concerns involved in increasing the connectivity of the international population.

Of particular interest to our interns were the impacts ICTs could have on the environment. They learned ICTs can serve as an integral tool in collecting big data for analysis of biodiversity, pollution, weather patterns and ecosystem evolution. In addition, satellite monitoring increases accountability by providing accurate global data. Running parallel to these positive impacts of ICTs, however, are the concerns. An increase in ICTs also creates an increase in electronic waste (e-waste).  According to the EPA, e-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America. Internationally, 40 million tons of electronic waste are created each year. In addition to having a negative environmental impact e-waste is also a health hazard, particularly to the impoverished young girls and women who scavenge for survival in various countries. Peace Boat interns were thrilled to learn about the various opportunities and concerns surrounding ICTs, and how they can be used in the undertaking of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They look forward to incorporating this knowledge and awareness into Peace Boat’s mission of promoting sustainable and equitable development around the world.


(This post was created by Lilly Potter)


One-on-one Conversation with Cristina Gallach


On October 27, 2016 Peace Boat US joined an event organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) that gave NGOs the opportunity to have one-on-one conversation with Cristina Gallach, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations.

The meeting began with moderator Maher Nasser, Director of the Outreach Division in the DPI, thanking Peace Boat for the “Floating Festival for Sustainability” event it organized on October 20, 2016 in collaboration with the DPI. He also thanked Peace Boat for its acknowledgment of the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ms. Gallach expressed her gratitude for the work done by civil society, as well as the importance of continuing to work together and support one another. The planet is more unstable than before, she said, and therefore it is important to promote diversity, integration and dignity, which is one of the campaigns of the DPI. Currently, the global community is in a phase of transition, especially in regards to the change of the UN Secretary General, and it is crucial to make that transition smooth and easy she noted.

Various questions were raised during the meeting, many on the topic of access and sharing on social media. For civil societies to work with UN agencies, it is necessary for NGOs to have easy access to information provided by the UN–an effort the UN is constantly trying to improve through their live Webcast and through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This is also linked to how they are engaging youth. Youth are constantly changing how they use social media, and therefore the DPI is trying to change as well to keep up and to engage the youth, given that young people are the leaders who will need to use the SDGs to effect change. To raise awareness about the SDGs, it is important to bring more youth organizations onboard, and Mr. Nasser said: “You shouldn’t wait to get invitations; you should knock on the door and make your voice heard.”

Peace Boat knows the importance of awareness of the SDGs, and actively works to raise it.  It organizes voyages that focus on sustainability and the SDGs to this end. In 2017, Peace Boat will hold its 94th Global Voyage for Peace, and invites youth to join the Latin American segment of the voyage in the summer to learn more about the SDGs. To see the full voyage itinerary visit: http://peaceboat.org/english/index.php?page=view&nr=122&type=4&menu=64

This post was created and published by Cecilie Barmoen (Intern from Peace Boat US)

The UN Prepares to Remember Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

If you have visited the United Nations recently or plan to, you may notice a large space on the first floor waiting for its blank walls to come alive with pieces for an upcoming exhibition. You may also notice that across from that space is a wall of informative panels that will make up part of the larger exhibition. This special exhibition is well worth the wait.  It is being prepared to commemorate the UN’s International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which will be held on March 25.2016-02-16 15.48.30

Every year, the UN hosts a series of educational activities to mark this day, including film screenings, roundtable discussions, and a global video conference in partnership with UNESCO featuring students living in countries affected by the transatlantic slave trade. There will also be tours of the newly established  “Ark of Return” permanent memorial, which honors the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, as well as the exhibit on the first floor that is currently under preparation. All activities are part of an important effort to spread knowledge and awareness of the causes, consequences, and lessons of the slave trade.

The exhibit will include fascinating narratives that are little known, such as an exhibition on Africans in India that details how Africans became slaves, generals and rulers in the country.  This exhibition was created and curated by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The New York Public Library, and is being presented in partnership with the United Nations Remember Slavery Programme and the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations.

2016-02-16 15.39.14So mark your calendars for March 25; it will undoubtedly be a powerful, moving, and eye-opening exhibit.To receive further information, please visit:rememberslavery.un.org or write to education-outreach@un.org

This annual exhibit is very much in line with the values of our organization, Peace Boat US. Peace Boat travels by ship promoting peace, human rights, equality, and understanding. Interestingly, our 93rd global voyage will be traveling from Africa to Brazil, which used to be part of the slave trade route, but is now a route we take as we advocate for peace. For further information about Peace Boat’s upcoming 93rd voyage, please visit: http://peaceboat.org/english/?page=view&nr=121&type=4&menu=64

This post was created and published by Claire Jolly (Intern from Peace Boat US).

United Nations establishes new monument in New York in recognition of cruel transatlantic slave trade

Earlier this year, the United Nations headquarters in New York City erected a memorial in recognition of the transatlantic slave trade and its notorious mark on global history. The memorial, called The Ark of Return, is constructed completely from white marble and resembles a ship—a reference to the cramped, inhumane slaving vessels that transported African people as human commodities between continents. Inside the gargantuan structure lies a prone figure draped in white. Underneath, the words “Consider the legacy” are etched in the marble. On the outside of the memorial are sketches that include maps of the triangular slave trade, slave ships, and diagrams of the inside of the ships used to carry slaves.

Rodney Leon is the architect of The Ark of Return. Leon is of Haitian-American descent, and was chosen in an international competition that involved 83 countries. Leon’s previous work includes the African Burial Ground Monument, which was erected near the burial site of 15,000 African descendants between the late 1600s to 1794. Leon has often provided information about his new work that is now displayed in the United Nations, and stated that the figure in the monument was sculpted from black Zimbabwean granite and designed to appear androgynous to represent the men, women, and children of the slave trade.

As an organization with a vessel that circumnavigates the world on global voyages for peace, and that has sailed on or near slave trade routes numerous times, Peace Boat US made a special visit to the UN to pay homage to the memorial. During previous Peace Boat Voyages, the organization has also taken nearly two thousand people to Senegal, where they had a firsthand chance to learn about Senegal’s Gorée Island, a former slave-trading post that was the last sight many saw before they were taken in chains to North and South America, many not surviving the grueling voyage.

Both Leon and Peace Boat aim to raise awareness of the history of the African slave trade, and acknowledge its ongoing effects on the current world. Peace Boat also recognizes that human trafficking exists in various forms today, and its travel agency, Japan Grace, is a member of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), an international network started in 1990 in response to the increase of child sex tourism in Asia. 

Equality, dignity, freedom and justice are essential to all human beings, and Peace Boat will continue to help raise awareness of slavery and human trafficking in its future voyages.


This post was created and published by Evan Hart (Peace Boat US Intern).

“Peace is not going to come from the top-down, but from the bottom up”

The inspirational speech of Arun Gandhi at the High Level Forum for a Culture of Peace is a call for reflection.

Being Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson seems to imply unlimited wisdom to share with the world. At least, that is the impression Peace Boat’s interns got from listening to Arun Gandhi’s words during the opening of the High Level Forum for a Culture of Peace.


Gandhi’s speech focused on the importance of individual transformation to make collective change possible. “Each of us contribute to violence all the time. We need to learn about our own weaknesses…We don’t know what peace looks like, we don’t understand what it means…we believe that peace is the absence of war and that can’t be further from the truth”.

To illustrate this thought, he shared an anecdote about a lesson his grandfather taught him when he was a boy. Coming back from school, young Arun threw away a little old pencil thinking his grandfather was going to give him a new one. Mahatma not only refused, but made him look for the old pencil in the dark. When he asked why, his grandfather explained about how with this simple action young Arun was wasting the world resources. Not only do we commit violence against nature when we waste, but also violence against humanity through the overconsumption of limited food and resources.

“We are not aware of how many personal acts of violence we commit everyday”. That’s why to him, non violence has to start with one’s own actions. As his grandfather used to say “we need to be the change we want to see in the world”. That’s why he doesn’t believe that waiting for governments to take action towards peace is going to work, unless it comes from a deep change from society first, since governments are part of that society after all. “Peace is not going to come from the top-down, but from the bottom up”, he assured.

In the wake of the current refugee crisis, his words seem to make a lot of sense. Many countries have organized civilian groups and take the lead welcoming refugees, in this way pressuring governments to receive and do more for refugees fleeing from Syria. “When the people lead, the leaders will follow” has hence become true.


Arun Gandhi’s speech also reinforced earlier remarks by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who, invoking Mahatma Gandhi’s message and legacy to showcase the impact a Culture of Peace can have in the course of history, said: “There will be no lasting peace on earth unless we learn not merely to tolerate but even to respect the other faiths as our own.”

This post was created by Lorena Pierres (Peace Boat US intern)